Lobbying bill Lords Report Stage – key changes still needed

As I wrote last week, Government has tabled a set of amendments to Part II of the Lobbying bill. These are an important concession that NCVO has welcomed: it was reassuring to finally see that Government has been listening to some of the concerns raised by charities and the wider voluntary sector about the possible unintended consequences of the bill, which could severely restrict campaigning by charities and voluntary organisations.

However, now is not the time to rest on our laurels. A number of considerable problems persist with the bill. These need to be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to achieve a regulatory framework that is workable and ensures charities and voluntary organisations are not deterred from undertaking campaigning activities. In particular, changes are needed to provisions of the bill around accounting for staff costs and campaigning in coalition. We also continue to have concerns about whether the considerably lower spending limits and the new constituency limits are proportionate.

Unless these further changes are made, organisations will continue to face onerous and complicated rules and restrictions that could deter them from carrying out their usual campaigning and influencing activities.

In advance of the Lords debating the bill tomorrow, we have therefore produced a Parliamentary briefing for Report Stage, which asks Peers to support a set of amendments that will hopefully go further in lessening the negative impacts of the bill. These amendments have been agreed with Lord Harries’ Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (which has also produced a briefing). They focus on:

  • getting clarification that campaigning on legislation before Parliament is not caught by the rules;
  • excluding background staff costs from what contributes towards ‘controlled expenditure’;
  • narrowing down the activities that count towards the new constituency limits;
  • further reducing the problems caused by the rules on campaigning in coalition;
  • maintaining the spending limits at the levels set by PPERA;
  • requiring the Electoral Commission to work with the Charity Commission so guidance for charities is coordinated.

If you have contacts within the House of Lords, please email them and feel free to use this briefing in your conversations. The changes we secured last week would not have been possible without all your support and such a swell of response from NCVO members and the organisations supporting the Commission on Civil Society.

 

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Elizabeth Chamberlain Elizabeth is head of policy and public services at NCVO. She has been part of the policy team since 2008, as the expert on charity law and regulation. Her policy interests also include charity campaigning, the sector’s independence, transparency, and accountability.

One Response to Lobbying bill Lords Report Stage – key changes still needed

  1. Laurence Pollock says:

    Practical, effective dissent is the bedrock of democratic society and transparent government. Bureaucracy is as big a threat to freedom as repression. Only committed persistent qwork will undermine efforts to build high walls round centralised, secretive decision making.